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Biotech Science

Cockroaches at Their Best at Night 98

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the like-computer-science-and-astronomy dept.
Science_afficionado writes "A new study has found that cockroaches are morons in the morning and geniuses in the evening in terms of their learning capacity. Previous studies suggest that the learning capacity of both people and rats are also affected by their internal biological clocks. But the effect is far more dramatic in cockroaches and it is the first time it has been found in insects. And, no, the researchers didn't try giving their cockroaches a sip of coffee to see if it revived them!"
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Cockroaches at Their Best at Night

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  • by Ariastis (797888) on Friday September 28, 2007 @07:52AM (#20780451)
    Would they learn better if installed in groups? In cubicles? Are there pointy-haired cockroaches? Did the researchers give them 20% of their time to work on personal projects? come one, where's the research!
  • by guruevi (827432) <evi@@@smokingcube...be> on Friday September 28, 2007 @07:52AM (#20780453) Homepage
    My previous boss was also a moron during the day and only when it was time to leave, came he up with a genius idea and called a meeting. Does that make him a cockroach?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      and only when it was time to leave, came he up with a genius idea and called a meeting


      Responding on /. in the morning, are we?

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        Vielleicht ein Deutsch Muttersprachler.
        • by foobsr (693224)
          Eher nicht, klingt mehr nach Mittel-/biblischem Englisch.

          CC.
        • Vielleicht ein Deutsch Muttersprachler.

          I don't speak (or read) German, but I wish I did. That sentence sounds angry and dirty, and I don't even know what it means! Gotta be the best language in the world for cursing.
          • by antek9 (305362)
            Sorry to disappoint you, but that sentence is neither aggressive nor dirty (except grammatically). Muttersprachler just means native speaker, and there are absolutely no negative connotations involved.

            As for being the best language for cursing: keep thinking that way if it helps you picking up a second language. Honestly. I thought the same way about Japanese and it motivated me to learn it, only to understand that cursing makes you sound like an imbecile, like in any other language. It just doesn't matter
            • Oh, I agree that cursing makes you sound like an imbecile. Well, most of the time. I actually quite enjoy and admire an inventive curser; it demonstrates facility with a language as well as imagination and creativity.

              I actually had more in mind of German being the best language to curse at non-German speaking people. Maybe it is just me, but it is a harsh sounding language, which lends itself well to cursing. And for some reason, I like the idea of cursing people in a language they don't understand.
        • Before you mod a post as flamebait for having an obscene sounding word like Muttersprachler, take three seconds and use Google translate [google.com]. He just used German to indicate that the person with the grammatical error seemed to be a native German speaker. Whomever modded that post as flamebait was a Wienersnitzel.
  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Friday September 28, 2007 @07:56AM (#20780471)
    If we switch Washington, DC to working the night shift, we'll get a better government?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by BiloxiGeek (872377) *
      HAH!! I doubt you could even get a cockroach to stoop so low as to working for our Uncle Sammy in DC!! Cockroaches have higher standards!
      • by MrMarket (983874)

        HAH!! I doubt you could even get a cockroach to stoop so low as to working for our Uncle Sammy in DC!! Cockroaches have higher standards!

        Silly govt. departments...

        Whatever. Not sure why civil servants get such a bad rap. Next time your you send a letter across the country for less than a dollar, read an SEC filing, fly in an airplane, drive on a highway, eat meat or produce without food poisoning, surf the internet, use GPS, drink TANG, etc...; thank a civil servant.

        • Well after 25 years of government service, military and contractor, I think I'm entitled to a sense of humor when it comes to working for Uncle Sam.

          Maybe you should try to get one too!
        • by aliquis (678370)
          Wtf, it's their fault people eat meat? Fuck them!
    • No definitely not! If they weren't incompetent, they would be better at being malevolent.
  • Cockroaches are active at night. Why on Earth we need a study for this.

    How do you learn if I wake you up at 3 am in the morning?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by erikina (1112587)

      The study was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      From TFA

      The study was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health.

      Presumably they're interested in the effect of the circadian system on memory aquisition and retrival, which is certainly worth studying and probably simailar in all animals, and its far easier to do initial work on insects and then scale it up to mammals.

      There might also be direct benefits to understanding cockroach behaviour, since they are a major public health risk in some parts of the world.

      • Or provide fodder for a heartwarming sequel to The Secret of NIMH [wikipedia.org].
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      As opposed to waking you up at 3 am in the afternoon? ;-)
    • I don't know about you, but I do most of my learning at three AM in the evening.
  • No idea (Score:5, Funny)

    by suv4x4 (956391) on Friday September 28, 2007 @08:03AM (#20780511)
    The people who conducted this study said in an interview:

    "An interesting question is why the animal would not want to learn at that particular time of day. We have no idea."

    The interview was conducted during the day. I leave you with your own conclusions on the similarity between cockroaches and some people.
  • "Genius"?! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Sody (940054)

    These are cockroaches we're talking about here, folks. Calling them "genius" at any time of the day is stretching it just a little, yes?

    Of course, the same could most likely be said of the person who came to mind when you read the summary, too....

    • Re:"Genius"?! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Aladrin (926209) on Friday September 28, 2007 @08:22AM (#20780647)
      They also seem to assume there are no other factors involved. Maybe it's not 'ability' to learn but 'desire' instead. Maybe their digestive system doesn't normally work at that time of day, and there's not enough incentive to learn. There's probably a billion other reasons they haven't thought of, right down to which researchers worked with which groups, and what other smells were nearby at each time, etc. I'm sure they tried to rule out all outside influence, but it's impossible to do so completely.

      I'd also like to remind everyone that a finding doesn't have any weight until it's been independently verified by a couple other labs.
      • Yes, The fact they are nocturnal means they probably operate better at night while we work better during the day.

        Now excuse me, I have some research to finish as to whether bears prefer forests or shopping malls for their biological functions.
        • by aliquis (678370)
          Uhm, this is slashdot, time on Sweden? 04:50, I where sleeping at 17:00.. for example.
      • by suv4x4 (956391)
        Maybe it's not 'ability' to learn but 'desire' instead.

        Cue in the "LEAVE COCKROACHES ALONE! They're just insects! You gotta be happy they learn at night you bastards!" jokes.
      • eh? (Score:2, Insightful)

        I don't think a cockroach has enough theory of mind to 'desire' to learn. And in any case there's no practical difference between desire to learn and ability to learn if predicting cockroach behaviour is the outcome. Either it will learn or it wont.

        With respect to other influences, I'm sure a journal like PNAS wouldn't take the research if it had fatal flaws. They're quite fussy.

        Also, I don't see why a study needs to be replicated before it has any weight. Unless you think there are significant flaws

    • by rubycodez (864176)
      I was wondering when GW Bush's "genius time" was, yes
  • Duh (Score:1, Redundant)

    by faloi (738831)
    If the cockroach hasn't had their coffee before trying to learn in the morning, there's no way they'll be able to remember anything.
  • by bernywork (57298) * <bstapleton.gmail@com> on Friday September 28, 2007 @08:19AM (#20780627) Journal
    I haven't heard of insects committing suicide before, but there has been a couple that have walked under my feet as I am walking. I guess Darwin would have something to say about that....
    • by eln (21727) *
      You think that's a stupid bug, I've actually seen an insect try to commit suicide and fail.

      Last week, I saw a huge butterfly try to kill itself by attempting to become entangled in the web of a much smaller spider. It was like watching someone trying to commit suicide by driving a Mack truck through a mobile home. Luckily, the spider managed to escape the flailing butterfly, but the web did not have a good day.
  • Hangover? (Score:3, Funny)

    by clarkkent09 (1104833) on Friday September 28, 2007 @08:27AM (#20780677)
    I'm not in the fuckin mood for running around some stupid maze. And turn down those lights!
  • The notions of operant versus respondent conditioning have been around for 60 or 70 years now and people still can't tell the difference? Learning is a vacuous concept that you can talk to your grandmother about but science has moved away from it because it doesn't address precisely what is learned or precisely when the learning takes place.
    • by Bob-taro (996889)

      Learning is a vacuous concept that you can talk to your grandmother about but science has moved away from it because it doesn't address precisely what is learned or precisely when the learning takes place.

      So let me see if I understand you: Science has abandoned the concept of learning because it doesn't adequately explain learning?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Mox-Dragon (87528)
      Actually, you've got it backwards. Operant and respondant conditioning are vacuous concepts that are at least 60 or 70 years old. They're lacking in explanatory power and have been shown false by almost every study of the processes of language learning ever. In fact, the method of teaching a foreign language based on good ol' BF Skinner's ideas about "learning" was the most spectacular failure that teaching has ever seen.
  • by Baumi (148744) on Friday September 28, 2007 @08:45AM (#20780813) Homepage
    Considering this new development, shouldn't we be calling them "clockroaches" from now on?
  • by MrCrassic (994046) <deprecated@emaELIOT.il minus poet> on Friday September 28, 2007 @08:49AM (#20780843) Journal

    Anyone who has had to deal with cockroach buildups in an apartment or house would know that in order to prevent them from coming to your kitchen is to wipe it down really well, because once they start coming, it's damn near impossible to stop them. Once they find a hint of food in a certain location, they will continue to look for it in the same location...

    Just sayin'.

  • Curious... (Score:5, Funny)

    by creimer (824291) on Friday September 28, 2007 @08:50AM (#20780855) Homepage
    Did anyone cross-referenced the late night genius cockroach study with the I.T. workers sleeping on the job [slashdot.org] study?
  • What the hell is this awful flash website?? The complete text of the story is flash, and before i can read the article, i have to watch an animation that prepares me for the structure of it??
    • What the hell is this awful flash website?? The complete text of the story is flash, and before i can read the article, i have to watch an animation that prepares me for the structure of it??

      Flash wasn't even installed on the computer I'm using right now, so I spent about thirty seconds looking for a "Go Straight to Article" link before realizing there wasn't one.

      If you do get to the final article, though, there's a "Tell us what you think of our new look!" link. Amusingly, there's a html/txt version, but t

    • Whoever submitted the flash version to Slashdot, of all places, was... like a morning cockroach.

      Here's the html version, with pretty pictures.

      http://www.vanderbilt.edu/exploration/text/index.php?action=view_section&id=1333&story_id=320 [vanderbilt.edu]

      I did look for other comments mentioning HTML or text but to my astonishment it appears no one bothered to post this all day.

  • they can't be told anything while people are here during normal hours but suddenly have great ideas when everyone else has gone home for the day
  • by simong (32944) on Friday September 28, 2007 @09:04AM (#20780957) Homepage
    that if you pull a cockroach's legs off it goes deaf [k12.ca.us].
  • by rabun_bike (905430) on Friday September 28, 2007 @09:07AM (#20780981)
    I'm pretty sure a sip of coffee would kill the cockroach. "Caffeine is found in varying quantities in the beans, leaves, and fruit of over 60 plants, where it acts as a natural pesticide that paralyzes and kills certain insects feeding on the plants. It is most commonly consumed by humans in infusions extracted from the beans of the coffee plant and the leaves of the tea bush, as well as from various foods and drinks containing products derived from the kola nut or from cacao. Other sources include yerba mate, guarana berries, and the Yaupon Holly." -- wikipedia
    • Then how come a vegas roach trap [wikipedia.org] is effective, even through it's based on coffee grounds?

      Inquiring minds want to know!
      • by Joebert (946227)

        An alternative method involves covering the outside of the jar with scotch tape or packing tape in order to give sufficient traction for cockroaches to climb into the jar without the requirement of placement next to a wall.

        Funny, I lived in a place once where I had to set my drink in the center of a square made from tape turned sticky-side-up just to go to the bathroom.
        The little bastards learned that a stovetop burner would kill them so they started climbing up the wall & onto the ceiling above th

        • by Khaed (544779)
          The little bastards learned that a stovetop burner would kill them so they started climbing up the wall & onto the ceiling above the pot & dropping in.

          That is the most horrifying thing I've ever read in my life... I am now going to stock up on RAID and maybe even a shotgun in the event they try and take over.
      • So, what you're saying is that caffeine can't kill bugs because you can use coffee to kill cockroaches. Is that it?
    • Well, that puts my coffee habit in a different perspective...
  • Have they forgotten that cockroaches exist in all parts of the world !? What about testing cockroaches from Asia/Australia side of the planet where it is day when it is night in the USA. Why are these studies so incomplete and pedantic without thorough analysis ?
    • I would hope the cockroaches adjust to the timezone they're in. They're probably noctournal wherever they are - So the timezone wouldn't really matter. Bring' em over here from austraila and we'll test them when they've got Jet Lag.
    • Have they forgotten that cockroaches exist in all parts of the world !?
      Actually, there are no cockroaches in Norway. Unless you manage to bring some back from vacation. Do they exist in Canada and the Northern US?

      Truth is, buggers don't like cold. So for the myth about them shrugging off a nuclear war... Nuclear Winter, baby.

      (Obviously, only Scandinavians could survive a nuclear war!)
      • by rs79 (71822)
        "Actually, there are no cockroaches in Norway. Unless you manage to bring some back from vacation. Do they exist in Canada and the Northern US?"

        Being born in Wales and having grown up in Ontario Canada I'd never seen a cockroach until at 22 I moved to Los Angeles in 1979.

        I saw lots there. Boric acid in every crack and crevice seems to kill them BTW and is about as safe as you can get.

        I've seen one or two of them in Toronto in old houses and restaurants, but other than that I've seen none. They're not real
  • If there's a nuclear winter, and cockroaches (which are generally said to survive despite radiation) are left in the dark (somewhere), will the darkness help them evolve to the point of being sentient?

    Maybe some experiments aka "learning during darkness" should be conducted on ISS. hmm..*wondering about that ep of Justice League when Vandal Savage was the only human left on Earth. Cockroaches evolved and became big. With the red sun (less sunlight), they appeared to be more organised and smarter. Maybe the

    • If there's a nuclear winter, and cockroaches (which are generally said to survive despite radiation) are left in the dark (somewhere), will the darkness help them evolve to the point of being sentient?
      You seem to be implying that they aren't already sentient. Anyone who has dealt with cockroaches before knows damn well they are!
  • Previous studies? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Metaphorically (841874) on Friday September 28, 2007 @10:37AM (#20781857) Homepage

    Previous studies suggest that the learning capacity of both people and rats are also affected by their internal biological clocks.


    Anybody got pointers on this previous research for humans? That could change my daily schedule...
    • This [chronobiology.ch] is the paper that was referred to in the original article.
      • Thanks, it's not very easy to read but I found some interesting bits around page 10. They also seem to have done their testing with people whose sleep schedules were disrupted - either deprived of sleep or just had different sleep patterns for testing.
  • by niktemadur (793971) on Friday September 28, 2007 @11:01AM (#20782325)
    Back in my college days, there was a nasty area right across the boulevard from Monterrey Tech (in Mexico) unaffectionately known as The Bronx. During weekends, it wasn't uncommon to see a molotov cocktail hurled here and there, from four or five story apartment buildings, just for the hell of it. There would be a towable hot dog stand parked on the curb, suddenly you'd hear a perpetrator from above yell "MOLOTOV!", the hot dog vendor would yell back "FUCK YOU!", then a molotov cocktail would fly in a parabola right above customers' heads and burst into flames in an empty lot across the street. Some of the customers would smile or laugh, some would groan in exasperation - but nobody was shocked.

    Sanitation in the area was a disaster, there were so many cockroaches in the buildings that many students simply gave up trying to exterminate them and simply accepted them as "pets", going as far as wagering on cockroach races. I don't know if it still exists, but back in those days there was a cheap repellent stick known as Chinese Chalk that was smeared on surfaces, and while it was fresh, supposedly no cockroach would cross the boundary. Racecourses were designed with Chinese Chalk, beers were popped open, wages were placed on the floor, and the festivities began.

    Years later, simply mentioning The Bronx can still make ex-alumni shudder.

    Aw, what the hell, here's another good cockroach story:

    One day, a friend of mine saw to his horror, three cockroaches huddling in his kitchen wall. So the guy approached nervously with a can of Raid and, involuntarily shutting his eyes, blasted 'em for about ten seconds before jumping several feet back. With morbid fascination and never taking his eyes off them, the guy slowly approached the dying, quivering roaches, still attached to the wall. He was just a couple of feet away when two of the roaches, in a final, heroic act of revenge, lunged at him. Screaming bloody murder in a high pitched tone that must've cracked a neighborhood window or two, the guy jerked violently, tripped and fell in a weird position, dislocating his shoulder.
    On a happy note, my friend himself tells that story, and has a good laugh while doing so.
  • the lurking motherfu****rs make sure their creepy bellies are the first thing we see in the morning ! they conspire !!!
  • Yes I did.
  • I've notice their code was much better towards the end of the day, not nearly as many kludges in it.

    Pug

Optimism is the content of small men in high places. -- F. Scott Fitzgerald, "The Crack Up"

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